Before you reuse images from the web in your research, or repost images on Facebook, Instagram, etc., make sure you can identify the original source. Manipulated images, staged photos, inaccurate captions, and misattribution are rampant online. Here are step-by-step instructions to tracing image sources down online, from Michael Arthur Caulfield's Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers:
With the advent of digital content creation, publishing, distribution, and sharing via the Internet, consumers—and specifically college students—are simultaneously the producers of and infringers upon intellectual properties. But remixes have not simply emerged with digitization. They have always been a part of any society's cultural development. Shakespeare's primary source for Romeo and Juliet, for example, was a poem by Arthur Brooke called The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet. Centuries later, the hip hop artist Biz Markie was served a lawsuit by Gilbert O'Sullivan, who claimed that Markie's "Alone Again" featured an unauthorized sample from O'Sullivan's hit "Alone Again (Naturally)."
Of course, not everything that authors create is subject to protection under the Copyright Act. Copyright protects only expression, not ideas or facts. Also, Fair use allows limited copying of copyrighted works without having to seek the author/copyright holder's permission, when use is for purposes such as teaching, research, scholarship, reporting, criticism, or parody. But to what extent has the evolution of social media expanded the permissibility of posting content created by third parties beyond the traditional limits of fair use? While there's no crystal clear answer to this question, both the case law and trends are clear that copyright is very much alive online and that stating “it’s just Facebook/Twitter/Instagram” is not a legal defense to infringement.